Two Valley churches are selling fireworks to raise money to support relief efforts in the tornado-ravaged areas of the U.S. this Fourth of July season.
Several hundred nonprofits sell fireworks in central Valley towns. Once they make up the cost of permits – about $700 – the remaining money goes to their causes.
Northside Christian Church in Clovis is committing 10% of fireworks proceeds to Joplin, Mo., families. The rest of the money will be used to fund its women's ministry child care, which costs about $4,000 a year.
Northside has a connection to Joplin, which is home to Ozark Christian College, where Northside youth have received training and returned to Northside as ministers.
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"We have a real connection with this town," says Kelli Crough, Northside women's ministry director. "I've never been to Joplin, but because so many of our pastors have been there, I feel it's family."
Five Northside students were attending Ozark Christian College when the tornado hit. One student, Gregg Hull, who works at a mattress factory, survived by riding out the tornado under a mattress.
Northside's senior pastor, the Rev. David Rutherford, traveled to Joplin to help Northside's students and others. Later, Northside's outreach pastor, Lito Solorio, who graduated from Ozark Christian College, helped there for a couple of weeks.
This is Northside's 10th year selling fireworks.
It's stand is in the church's parking lot at 2709 E. Nees Avenue.
Calvary Chapel Fresno also is designating a portion of fireworks proceeds to tornado relief in the United States, including Joplin.
Proceeds last year – about $7,000 – went to the church's Mexico missions projects at Mixteco Christian Fellowship in San Antonio de Las Minas, a colony northeast of Ensenada.
Some proceeds again will go to Mexico missions, but Calvary Chapel Fresno decided to include tornado relief because of its connection with Samaritan's Purse International Relief, which helps areas hit by natural disasters, poverty, famine and war.
Calvary Chapel Fresno annually serves as a collection site for Operation Christmas Child gift-filled shoe boxes, a ministry of Samaritan's Purse.
In 2007, the church joined Samaritan's Purse relief efforts in tornado-ravaged Greensburg, Kan., sending eight church members to help in the area.
When Joplin was devastated, Calvary Chapel Fresno decided to include U.S. tornado relief in its causes.
The fireworks stand is in the Midtown Plaza parking lot on East Shields Avenue next to Target.
"We're going to concentrate on the fireworks stand and see how the Lord blesses it," says Steve Spalding, associate pastor at Calvary Chapel Fresno. "Then, we'll look to the Lord to see how much money should go where."
Pat Smith, a customer at Northside's fireworks stand, says it is important that churches and ministries use proceeds to reach out to others in need. She bought about $225 worth of fireworks.
She says, "I think it's wonderful they're trying to help [Joplin]."